Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Novel Writing Month: 'In the Beginning Was the All-Spark Cube'

Explain to anyone what National Novel Writing Month is, and there's a good chance that person will say, "Oooh, yeah. That idn't good." Getting people writing and thinking harder about story and characterization is a good thing and, longterm, should only engender a stronger appreciation for literature. Undoubtedly, the organizers of "NaNoWriMo" have their hearts in the right place. That said, meeting their goals via a project that demands 50,000 words in 30 days from people who may have gone years without writing more per day than an email yields more accidentally funny stuff than anything else.

Among people who take writing seriously, who realize that it's work, the default responses range from weak encouragement to discreet eyerolling. If you're looking for a more substantive response, it's likely to be a sincere wish that all the attention for NaNoWriMo could be directed at, say, funding the sort of community-college creative writing workshops that might actually employ people who take writing seriously.

In the short term, though, sympathetic teasing or mockery dominate the reactions. (I asked for a blurb from a published author I know — one who both participated in NaNoWriMo and who is patient enough to have enjoyed teaching high school — and even his politely begging off contained the concession that it yields a lot of terrible work as well as people who take it way too seriously and start self-identifying as "Author.") NaNoWriMo pieces tend toward self-insertion fan-fic, the genre-heavy and stereotypical. There are girls rewriting the story of their doomed college relationship; only this time it works out. There are boys turning themselves into crime-fighters who have sex. Where the sexes meet, there are wizards and aliens and monocled men in morning coats with pneumatic arms getting down to lovemaking in the Babbage-Omicron Zeppelin.

With luck, this goes some way to explaining how a bunch of strangers wound up spending a day on Twitter writing "#NaNoWriMoOpeners" at each other. It's a great format for trading one-line jokes, and NaNoWriMo is just weird and silly enough to permit almost any one-liner to seem plausible. Because of the ephemeral and badly coded nature of Twitter, I've reprinted mine below and taken the liberty of reprinting a few others that I feel reasonably secure I won't offend anyone by sharing here. Because I didn't hear from the vast majority of people who were in on the joke at the time, I've omitted their tweets. Anyone who wants to be included is welcome to email me with a list of their favorites or post them in the comments.

One last thing: an interesting side effect of making "#NanoWriMoOpeners" jokes is that it automatically reduced the number of characters everyone had to work with to 122 per tweet. (I deleted that hashtag from the reprints below; reading it repeatedly was annoying.) In a sense, as much as people were busting on it, trying to establish a concept and a gag in 122 characters is probably just the sort of inspired and discipline-inducing exercise the National Novel Writing Month creators would probably enjoy. The best part is, none of those ideas required anyone to labor for 30 days over a doomed exercise; nor did it require any of their friends or loved ones to read it.

National Novel Writing Month Opening Lines

Quarterback Tim Tebow smelled burning flesh, and knew it was his own.

5:10 PM Nov 14th via TweetDeck

Dale was the first one to tell you that the worst part of working for the CDC was always figuring out who dealt it.

12:45 PM Nov 15th via TweetDeck

RT @AGentleBrees: "Let's take turns kissing each other," said Bowser to Dr. House, except black.

2:06 AM Nov 15th via TweetDeck

Hanging his head, Jayden deleted the last remaining Tonic fanpage on Geocities. The rest of his life had just begun.

11:35 PM Nov 14th via TweetDeck

RT @woodmuffin: If I was going to nab Gary Glitter, I'd have to catch him in Istanbul. Nothing was more appealing to him than Asia Minor

November 14, 2010 11:31:26 PM EST via web

"Well," said Isis, holding her hand mirror so she could look at her own vagina, "this monologue ain't gonna write itself."

11:28 PM Nov 14th via TweetDeck

Once again, nobody had joined Rockwell's live webcam, and he was crying.

November 14, 2010 10:24:08 PM EST via TweetDeck

"Aw shit!" said God, poking through his stash when he was about to create Man. "This shit's all stem cells and seeds."

November 14, 2010 9:58:37 PM EST via TweetDeck

We beat on, boats against the direct current, because that fucker Edison totally hosed Tesla. Have you read Howard Zinn?

November 14, 2010 9:53:56 PM EST via TweetDeck

Few people were surprised when a wizard gave cats the gift of speech and all of their first words were, "Fuck you, lady."

November 14, 2010 9:44:28 PM EST via TweetDeck

For years he had studied the aromas to Andrea Kremer's panties. That's how he knew she was ill. And now he had to tell her

November 14, 2010 9:00:20 PM EST via TweetDeck

RT @woodmuffin: "Papa," the wooden boy asked, "why was I built?" But the Geppedophile looked away, ridden with guilt

November 14, 2010 7:21:59 PM EST via TweetDeck

Tyler knew in his heart that heaven was a place where Maynard would return his calls and even let him drive the van.

November 14, 2010 6:47:19 PM EST via TweetDeck

Unbeknownst to a man with a huge penis, there was a japanese schoolgirl with big breasts hiding in the teleporter with him

November 14, 2010 6:40:11 PM EST via TweetDeck

United States Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) could smell poop on a man's dick and knew it was his own.

November 14, 2010 6:35:42 PM EST via TweetDeck

"Social welfare is theft; theft is a disease," said Jefferson. Franklin replied: "I'm the cure," then cocked his shotgun.

November 14, 2010 6:25:53 PM EST via TweetDeck

He'd never thought he'd be in this position but he was about to find out if that asshole Bruce Hornsby could take a punch.

November 14, 2010 6:13:20 PM EST via TweetDeck

The 1st genie wish was easy: meet Carrie Bradshaw. But for wishes #2 & 3 she would require schematics of the Enterprise-D.

November 14, 2010 9:41:19 PM EST via TweetDeck

He flashed her an Unobtanium smile & handed over a plastic bladder of Courvoisier. "So, have you ever fucked in zero-OG?"

November 14, 2010 6:07:41 PM EST via TweetDeck

RT @SRN_lol: Pancho Villa, Sam Bowie, Han Solo, Indiana Jones... the list is endless. The list of men I've killed, that is.

November 14, 2010 6:04:42 PM EST via web

It was a bright Caturday in April and the clocks were striking moar-thirty...

November 14, 2010 5:55:22 PM EST via TweetDeck

"Hey, it works!" he shouted, flexing his numb fingers. "It really DOES feel like a stranger!"

November 14, 2010 5:51:59 PM EST via TweetDeck

They should have destroyed all the copies, because now Bonzer had proof who'd forced the government to criminalize weed.

November 14, 2010 5:42:46 PM EST via TweetDeck

This is the true story of a simple man who found a time machine & singlehandedly reversed the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs

November 14, 2010 5:40:26 PM EST via TweetDeck

After 22 years, he would finally tomahawk jam on the President. What he didn't know: would Avery get to the bomb in time?

November 14, 2010 5:37:14 PM EST via TweetDeck

"Great, isn't that always the way?" he thought. High school Senior Picture Day, and he woke up covered in morgellons.

November 14, 2010 10:10:55 PM EST via TweetDeck

"In the Kangaroos!" Lace Slider had looked his whole life for the Secret Constitution. Now: money, it's gotta be the shoes

November 14, 2010 5:33:30 PM EST via TweetDeck

He was having the dream again, the one where he was Yoshi.

November 14, 2010 5:27:50 PM EST via TweetDeck

My name is Cleric Jason & I've chosen to remain a virgin since I began secondary school and learned the purity of Gunkata

November 14, 2010 5:25:26 PM EST via TweetDeck

RT @SRN_lol: "A dragon is nothing more than a series of tubes," said professor Gomer, "Tubes filled with immortality juice."

November 14, 2010 5:18:39 PM EST via web

Vapelander Derrick placed ten singles on the table. "I'll remove one for every error you make," he told the coffee vampire

November 14, 2010 5:22:13 PM EST via TweetDeck

RT @SRN_lol: The puissant king hurled decrees like daggers at Sir Cromwell who nodded grimly and grasped his magic sword of steam.

November 14, 2010 5:17:13 PM EST via web

"Happy Warcraft guilds are all alike; every unhappy guild is unhappy in its own way. Take this guy Jim, who never grinds."

November 14, 2010 5:17:44 PM EST via TweetDeck

bell hooks lay back and slowly opened her legs, revealing her divine, damp femininity. Roethlisberger, helmeted, nodded.

November 14, 2010 11:23:35 PM EST via TweetDeck

"Ephebophilia is a sexual preference for mid-to-late adolescents, ages 15 to 19," he explained "It's a different desire."

November 14, 2010 5:15:58 PM EST via TweetDeck

RT @woodmuffin: Yancy grabbed his cheeks and prepared to yank upwards. If there was ever a time to pull off ones own face, this was it

November 14, 2010 7:16:42 PM EST via web

When he'd first designed the Batmobile, Bruce Wayne never stopped to consider how hard it would be to find air filters.

5:12 PM Nov 14th via TweetDeck

If Erica hadn't dogeared every word that could mean "penis" in the English-French dictionary, she wouldn't be alive today.

11:38 PM Nov 14th via TweetDeck

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of ass struggle," said Karla Marx, shopping for bluejeans.

12:45 AM Nov 15th via TweetDeck